Giving With Gratitude Because of The Unconditional Love of The Triune God–“Give It Away.
The ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor is scary. Be warned wealthy. And that is each one of us. Take note of these Early Church leaders and their thoughts on giving to the poor:
Ambrose (theologian and church leader, 4th century) wrote: “There is your brother, naked and crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.”
Basil the Great (theologian and bishop in modern-day Turkey, 4th century) wrote, “The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor.”
John Chrysostom (theologian and pastor, 4th century) said, “The almsgiver is a harbour for those in necessity: a harbour receives all who have encountered shipwreck, and frees them from danger; whether they are bad or good. … escorts them into his own shelter. So you likewise, when you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”
God is the foundation, architect and builder of the story of healing and redemption. And we are to participate in the writing of that story.
The texts in 1 Timothy 6:6-19, Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and Luke 16:19-31 demand that the local church look more like the community it serves. More of our life wallet must be given away for the sake of others. Our intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual and financial capital does not save. Love does. 1 Timothy exhorts us to be active and courageous in our choices. Less is more. Jeremiah 32 is the first-person report of Jeremiah’s redemption purchase of land; his cousin’s field. The redemption purchase of the land invites the listener then and now to be a participant in God’s mission of salvation. Luke 16 states that reversals in well-being do occur. We are to attend to the least in our midst.
Jesus told us that the Church will never die, “But churches have and are dying.” Why is that? The local church resists looking like its community. Thom S. Rainer in Autopsy of a Deceased Church writes, “When a church ceases to have a heart and ministry for its community, it is on the path toward death. Whenever local churches are mentioned in the New Testament, they are always exhorted to be other- centered…Vibrant and living churches look after the interests of others. They are concerned for their communities. They open the door for others.” The community of faith at Geneva Presbyterian Church does not exist for itself. We are entrusted with the promise of redemption.
We are a community of followers of Jesus who embrace brokenness, ours and others. With the beginning of the church in the first century, God’s kingdom was opened to all people. People were valued not for their wealth and power but because they were created in the image of God. Let’s be a community of faith at Geneva that is known as a center of hope and advocacy for a better way for all people. To give the content of our life wallet away, we will demonstrate simplicity, welcoming the stranger, charity and justice on behalf of the “least of these.” It is true that love saves.
Being an inclusive and welcoming congregation, focused on Jesus Christ, is essential for Geneva’s better tomorrow. Yes, ethnic and economic diversity, younger families and the over 55 crowd are essential to Geneva’s existence. Recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community. Let go of the past as hero for it does not fix anything. Build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community. Give it (yourself) away. Only love saves.
As found on preachingtoday.com. All three citations submitted by Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois. Ambrose and Basil the Great are also found in Frederica Mathewes-Green, The Illumined Heart: Capture the Faith of Ancient Christians (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Paraclete Press, 2001), 89.
In this paragraph, I have benefited from the thinking of Ken Evers-Hood, David F. White, Jared E. Alcantara, Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Richard W. Voelz and Nancy Lynne Westfield in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 346-348, 348-350, 337-339, 339-341, 351-353 and 353-354.
Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 28.